With her smiling eyes, Body has made a name for herself at school. This small 56 cm companion robot allows hospitalized children to join their lessons through telepresence. Founded in 2014, the tri-color start-up Blue Frog Robotics will soon offer 2,000 bodies for a value of 10 million euros, as part of its collaboration with the Ministry of National Education.
Professor Albert-Claude Benhamu is behind the installation. In 2018, this surgeon led a ministerial-level mission to identify and evaluate inclusion solutions for sick children. He launched a call for tenders and then met Rudolf Hasselvender, founder of Blue Frog Robotics, which develops companion robots.
Start-up wins the market. Thanks to his companion Robot, “The isolated child can talk, hear and see from his bed. It can even remotely control the movement of robots, “said Albert-Claude Benhamu with satisfaction.
Presented to friend Brigitte Macron
For Blue Frog Robotics, this is a boost. After years of research and development and artisan production, the Paris-based company is finally moving to a critical stage of industrialization. “Without this agreement, we can still raise funds,” Rudolf Hasselvender added. Today, a start-up depends on its sales and turnover.
To overcome this first call for tenders with National Education, Blue Frog Robotics relies on the expertise of its main shareholder, Timnet, who specializes in e-governance and is accustomed to the education market. Led by Bertrand Fache, the company entered start-up capital in 2019. It is responsible for the supply, distribution and maintenance of the robot. Buddy Beauvais is produced.
The bet on a start-up was also a bet for the Ministry of National Education We were shocked: “We broke the rules a bit, the engineer admitted. With the help of Professor Benhamur, we went to see Buddy Ellis in front of Brigitte Macron and Jean-Michel Blanker. After an initial proposal seemed too expensive, Rudolf Haselvender agreed to a discount.
Initially, the production cost of a robot for a sale price of 10,000 euros was about 8,000 euros. With massive production, industrialization and cost reductions, the selling price drops to 2,000 euros. “We now build 200 to 300 robots per month,” said Rudolf Hasselvender.
Next step: open a factory
Working for the state also requires a good understanding of administrative functions. “You have to check, tick all the boxes, plan the changes and imagine all the situations that could happen,” said the start-up. The ministry has thus ensured that no medical information can be leaked to sick children.
States and start-ups do not always speak the same language. For entrepreneurs, the bureaucracy, more rigidly, is engaged in the policy of reducing the state budget. “Teachers must be trained and made aware of the presence of robots, but for the ministry, this may be perceived as an additional expense”, admits Rudolf Hasselvender.
Communication was also slow. “The official launch took place in January, when we had been supplying the robot for a year. “A calendar disrupted by the epidemic. But these two years, marked by the development of video conferencing, have introduced public actors to the technical tools.
This collaboration has strengthened Blue Frog Robotics internally. Since 2018, the number of employees has almost doubled to about 40 employees. A after-sales service was created to improve the product. “We are now able to give an answer in an hour”, the founder rejoiced.
Although the deal with the ministry expires this summer, “we are already talking about a second order and possibly at the EU level”, slips the boss who aims to invest in his own factory. Assembly. At a fundraiser in 2021, worth 6. 6.5 million, Blue Frog Robotics aims to build 20,000 robots per year.